Music teacher Alex Gonzales from the Delano Joint Union High School District, and science teacher Robert Hodash from Sierra Middle School, were honored Tuesday as the 2012-13 Kern County Teachers of the Year.

The pair will represent Kern County in the California Teacher of the Year competition in February 2014.

Ogden Kiesel from Blanton Education Center was named this year's alternate.

The selections were announced at a reception hosted by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools office at the Bakersfield Museum of Art to honor the 57 Kern teachers nominated for the award by their schools and districts. All 57 nominees received plaques and certificates.

A committee of educators and community leaders reviewed all the applications. Site visits were made to the top candidates' schools.

The California Department of Education launched the California Teachers of the Year Program in 1972 to recognize exemplary educators across the state.

Five state winners will be named at a gala next February in Sacramento. One of them will be selected to represent California in the National Teacher of the Year Program in Washington, D.C.

The Jim Burke Ford Education Foundation has presented its annual Teacher of the Year and Rising Stars awards to local educators in two categories: junior high and high school.

This year's Teacher of the Year award went to Maria Villarreal, an algebra teacher at Sequoia Middle School, and Jorge Maldonado, a world history teacher at Shafter High School.

Teacher of the Year winners received a Waterford crystal vase, a $500 stipend and a $500 contribution in their name to a department within their school.

The foundation also presented its Rising Star award to teachers new to the profession who have exceeded expectations in their new jobs and had a significant positive impact on students.

Those awards went to Mandy Howland, an algebra and AVID teacher at Stonecreek Junior High, and Craig Davidson, an ag earth science and communication teacher at Highland High School.

Both of the Rising Star award winners received a Waterford vase and a contribution to their school in their name.

Garces Memorial High School will hold its sixth annual Hall of Honor dinner and awards ceremony 5 p.m. May 18 in Monsignor Leddy Hall, 2800 Loma Linda Drive.

This year's inductees are 1958 graduate Marianne Laxague, owner of Pyrenees Bakery; 1955 graduate Gary Ogilvie, retired teacher and football coach at Tehachapi High School; and retired educator and Garces board member John Ritter.

Tickets are $100. For information, call 327-2578 ext. 129 or visit

The U.S. Energy Department and the National Science Teachers Association have opened registration for America's Home Energy Education Challenge, a national student competition created to help families save money by saving energy.

Schools and classes will compete within 11 regions for more than $60,000 in prizes. Winning teams will be determined by the decrease in students' year-over-year home energy use, percentage of class or school participation, and the overall creativity and quality of their local competition.

Students and educators can register to participate at